Sunday, December 28, 2008

Remembrance of roast beef sandwiches past

Remember how I wrote about defunct fast food franchises and discovered in the process that Rax restaurants, although few in number, are still out there serving roast beef sandwiches? Well, check this out.

That's right, it's a real, live, honest-to-goodness, in-operation Rax in Bellefontaine, Ohio. I stopped on Christmas Eve day en route to my parents' place. And get this... When I had my Thanksgiving experience with unstoppable cruise control, I was a mile or less from this very eatery and didn't know it. They were probably open then too.

You see, this Rax seems to be an all-purpose, 24/7 dining option for hungry travelers exiting state route 33. (You better know it's there, though. It's not listed on the exit sign but an Arby's is.) If you enlarge the picture, you'll see signs stating they are open 24 hours, including all day on Christmas, and sell non-Rax-like food such as pizza.

The inside of the restaurant looks like the chain's latter day buildings: bright interior, no solarium. Most conspicuous in its absence was the salad bar, although like I mentioned, this seems like a place optimized for those on the road. The prominent drive-thru makes that apparent. The interior menu looked more or less like I remembered it. I wouldn't be surprised if the menu board is exactly the same except with higher prices. I wasn't brave enough to snap a photo inside, but I did take one of the drive-thru menu.

Having not been in a Rax in who knows how long--ten years?--that's an imposing menu to navigate. Plus, they list no combo meals, so you have to look over this monster to find everything you want. I knew what I wanted before I set foot in it, but it still overwhelmed me. The prices seemed a little on the high side for fast food, especially with no combo meal break but whatever. I was happy to find the presumed dead franchise.

I ordered a regular roast beef, medium fries, and a medium chocolate chip shake to go. Except for the bag, the food came in nondescript packaging and with non-branded napkins. My hypothesis is that the bag is leftover inventory, although maybe this visit wasn't representative. I stopped by on the way home and got a large fries in a container bearing a logo. Lack of branded packaging isn't necessarily indicative of the restaurant's economic health, but with an extra charge assessed if you wish to use a card to pay, I have to wonder if their margins are really thin.

As for the food itself, the fries were good and may be like how I remember, although really, how would I know? I liked the sandwich too, but I can't say how it compares to those from the past.

The shake, though, was definitely different. I had wanted mint chocolate chip, but those weren't available for order. Rax used to coat part of the cup's walls with chocolate and nicely decorate the top with whipped cream and chocolate chips like coffee shops top mochas and hot chocolates. (In fairness, my shake might have looked like that, but I couldn't tell with the flat lid.) This shake was thicker, and the mini chocolate chips wouldn't travel up the straw, meaning I essentially had a vanilla shake with a couple scoops of chips resting on the cup's bottom.

If you must know, I didn't buy bags and bags of Rax's regular roast beefs to maintain a ration like Bill McNeal does with his precious, old vending machine sandwiches in Newsradio. I liked what I ate, and I might stop by on future drives to visit my parents. I've had my fill for now, though.

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At 10:12 PM, Blogger Donna B. said...

Rax in Chattanooga was one of my family's regular Sunday night after church gathering places. I remember a prominent salad bar (which is mostly what I got), and that solarium, of course. The branding, other than the sign, looks completely unlike what I remember. What a strange afterlife for a chain restaurant.

At 3:39 PM, Anonymous LittleWit said...

Hooray for finding Rax! :) I think there used to be one in Athens but it closed during my time there. I also think there is one somewhere along our route to Kentucky but I can't be more specific than that. Sorry. :)

At 11:17 PM, Blogger NickE said...

There are a cluster of Rax restaurants open in southern Ohio around the Ironton area where Rax is Headquartered.When I went to Rax everything I got had Rax labels on it I know for certain the one you went to is a Franchise store and may get unlabeled packaging for some reason. That is the only 24 hour Rax location in existence. Also, most remaining rax roast beef stores have got rid of their Salad Bars. If you want store information go to this site


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